"Well said, young Coughlin. Would you help us stop this habit?" "With pleasure, sir."

Palmer swiveled his chair until he was looking at the cracks in his window. "Ordinary times call for ordinary law. Would you call these times ordinary?"

Connor shook his head. "I would not, sir."

"Extraordinary times, then . . . ?"

"Call for extraordinary measures."

"Just so. Mr. Hoover?"

John Hoover hitched his pants at the knee and leaned forward. "The attorney general is determined to rout the evil from our midst. To this end, he has asked me to head a new section of the Bureau of Investigation to be known from here on as the General Intelligence Division or G-I-D. Our mandate, as the name suggests, is to gather intelligence against the radicals, the Communists and Bolsheviki, the anarchists and the Galleanists. In short, the enemies of a free and just society. You?"

"Mr. Hoover?"

"You?" Hoover's eyes bulged. "You?"

Connor said, "I'm not sure I--"

"You, Coughlin? You, sir. Which are you?"

"I'm none of those," Connor said and the hardness of his own voice surprised him.

"Then join us, Mr. Coughlin." Mitchell Palmer turned back from his window and extended his hand across the desk.

Connor stood and shook the hand. "I'd be honored, sir." "Welcome to our table, son."

Luther was plastering walls on the fi rst floor of the Shawmut Avenue building with Clayton Tomes when they heard three car doors slam outside and saw McKenna and two plainclothes cops exit the black Hudson and climb the stairs into the building.

In McKenna's eyes, as soon as he entered the room, Luther saw something far beyond the normal corruption, the normal disdain. He saw something so unhinged by rage it belonged in a pit, chained and caged.

The two cops he'd brought with him spread out into the room. One of them carried a toolbox for some reason. Judging by the way it pulled his shoulder down, it was heavy. He placed it on the floor near the kitchen doorway.

McKenna removed his hat and waved with it toward Clayton. "Good to see you again, son."

"Sir."

McKenna stopped by Luther and looked down at the bucket of plaster between them. "Luther, would you be offended if I asked you a rather arcane question?"

Luther thought: So much for Danny or the captain taking care of this problem.

"Nah, suh."

"I'm curious as to where you trace your ancestry," McKenna said. "Africa? Haiti? Or Australia, eh? You could be one of the aboriginals, yeah? Do you know, son?"

"What's that, suh?"

"Where you come from?"

"I come from America. These here United States."

McKenna shook his head. "You live here now. But where'd your people come from, son? I ask ya--do you know?"

Luther gave up. "I don't, suh."

"I do." He squeezed Luther's shoulder. "Once you know what to look for, you can always tell where someone hails from. Your great-grandfather, Luther, based on that nose of yours and that kinky, tight hair and those truck-tire lips--he was from sub- Saharan Africa. Probably around Rhodesia'd be my guess. But your lighter skin and those freckles 'round your cheekbones are, God's truth as I'm standing here, West Indian. So your great-grandfather was from the monkey tree and your great-grandmother from the island tree and they found their place as slaves in the New World and produced your grandfather who produced your father who produced you. But that New World, it isn't exactly America now, is it? You're like a country within the country, I'll surely grant you, but hardly the country itself. You're a non-American who was born in America and can never, ever become an American."

"Why's that?" Luther stared back into the man's soulless eyes. "Because you're ebon, son. Negroid. Black honey in the land of white milk. In other words, Luther? You should have stayed home." "No one asked."

"Then you should have fought harder," McKenna said. "Because your true place in this world, Luther? Is back where you fucking came from."

"Mr. Marcus Garvey says pretty much the same thing," Luther said.

"Comparing me to Garvey, are we?" McKenna said with a slightly dreamy smile and a shrug. " 'Tis no bother. Do you like working for the Coughlins?"

"I did."

One of the cops sauntered over until he was directly behind Luther.

"That's right," McKenna said. "I'd forgotten--you were let go. Killed a bunch of people in Tulsa, ran from your wife and child, came here to work for a police captain, and still you fucked that up. If you were a cat, I'd say you were near down to your last life."

Luther could feel Clayton's eyes. Clayton would have heard about Tulsa through the grapevine. He would have never guessed, though, that his new friend could have been involved. Luther wanted to explain it, but all he could do was look back at McKenna.

"What you want me to do now?" Luther said. "That's the point here--get me to do something for you?"

McKenna toasted that with a flask. "Coming along?"

"What?" Luther said.

"This building. Your remodeling." McKenna lifted a crowbar off the floor.

"I guess."

"Almost there, I'd say. 'Least on this floor." He smashed out two windowpanes with the crowbar. "That help?"

Some glass tinkled to the floor, and Luther wondered what it was in some people made feeding hate so pleasant.

The cop behind Luther chuckled softly. He stepped alongside him and caressed his chest with his nightstick. His cheeks were burned by the wind and his face reminded Luther of a turnip left too long in the fields. He smelled of whiskey.

The other cop carried the toolbox across the room and placed it between Luther and McKenna.

"We were men with an agreement. Men," McKenna said, leaning in close enough for Luther to smell his whiskey-tongue and drugstore aftershave. "And you went running to Tommy Coughlin and his over-privileged whelp of a son? You thought that would save you, but, Lord, all it did was curse you."

He slapped Luther so hard Luther spun in place and fell to his hip. "Get up!"

Luther stood.

"You spoke out of turn about me?" McKenna kicked Luther in the shin so hard Luther had to replant his other leg so as not to fall. "You asked the royal Coughlins for special dispensation with me?"

McKenna pulled his service revolver and placed it to Luther's forehead. "I am Edward McKenna of the Boston Police Department. I am not someone else. I am not some lackey! I am Edward McKenna, Lieutenant, and you are remiss!"

Source: www.StudyNovels.com